Circumcised men no less likely to get sex diseases

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Circumcision does not appear to shield men from the types of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) common in the developed world, according to new research from New Zealand.

While there is “compelling evidence” that circumcision protects men from contracting HIV through sex with women, it is unclear whether circumcised men are at lower risk of other types of STDs, Dr. Nigel P. Dickson and colleagues note in their report in the Journal of Pediatrics.

To investigate, the researchers, at the University of Otago in Dunedin, followed 499 men born in 1972 and 1973 up to age 32. About 40 percent of the men had been circumcised in early childhood.

Among circumcised men, 23.4 percent reported having had any type of STD by age 32, compared to 23.5 percent of the uncircumcised men.

The most common STDs reported were genital warts, Chlamydia and genital herpes. There was no statistically significant difference in rates of STDs even after the researchers adjusted for sexual behavior and socioeconomic factors.

Another recent study from New Zealand found that circumcision appeared to halve the rate of STDs among men up to age 25, Dickson and his colleagues note. However, they add, that study was done in a smaller group of individuals with a lower rate of STDs than that reported in the current study, while fewer men in that group had been circumcised.

“Although the reason for the different findings in the 2 cohorts is unclear, when our findings are considered in the context of other recent population-based studies in developed countries, it appears unlikely that circumcision has a major protective effect against common sexually transmitted infections in these populations, although a small effect cannot be ruled out,” the researchers conclude.

SOURCE: Journal of Pediatrics, March 2008.